Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA champion, a six-time MVP, a two-time Finals MVP, a 19-time All-Star, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, a three-time national champion, and a three-time national player of the year at UCLA. And yet, he is often overlooked in the greatest-basketball-player-of-all-time debate.
That has to be frustrating, no?
“I’m not frustrated,” Abdul-Jabbar said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “There’s a lot of different reasons for it. I should be in the conversation. The numbers don’t lie. That’s what I tell people.”
Abdul-Jabbar played in the NBA from 1965-89 and scored 38,387 points. Karl Malone (36,928), Kobe Bryant (33,643), Michael Jordan (32,292), and Wilt Chamberlain (31,149) rank second through fifth, respectively.
Malone, Bryant, and Jordan all played into the 2000s. Abdul-Jabbar, however, has been retired for more than a quarter of a century.
“What we have here is when I played is getting to be further and further in the dim past,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “So LeBron is playing now and he’s an incredible athlete and people see that. They didn’t see what I did. These are people who never saw what Wilt did. Scoring 100 points in a game or averaging 55 points a game for a whole NBA season – there have been some things done that people haven’t even assessed when they’re trying to figure all of this out. But yeah, I should be in the conversation. When it doesn’t happen, people are being short-sighted. But that’s life, I guess.”
Bill Reiter wonders if Abdul-Jabbar’s exclusion is media-driven. After all, Jordan courted the media. So does LeBron James. They understand the importance of branding and PR. Abdul-Jabbar, on the other hand, sometimes clashed with the media.
Could that be it?
“I think to some degree what you said is right on the money,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I think, though, that over a period of time, people get over some of that stuff. So it’s hard to say to what degree that affects the situation. But yeah, absolutely, it does affect the situation.”